STOP THE VIOLENCE—Youth Sports Coach Jeff Marion stands with youth from various sports league to explain the importance of youth sports activities and the impact it has on keeping kids off the streets at the Stop The Violence Benefit Concert at Stage AE on Jan. 17. (Photo by J.L. Martello)
by Ashley Johnson
For New Pittsburgh Courier
Black on Black violence has been an epidemic in the Black community for years, with many feeling like no end is in sight. Many feel fed up and left with no answers to a cure. While some are getting the message out through marches, vigils and town hall meetings, one man is spreading his message through music.
Raising money and bringing awareness to the epidemic was the main theme of the Stop the Violence Concert held by musician Yves Jean, in collaboration with the Ladies Hospital Aid Society and local youth sports leagues, on Jan. 17 at the American Eagle Outfitters Stage AE on the North Shore.
“Young people are dying and we wanted to bring the public service announcement to the stage,” Jean said. “The concert was successful, the audience was diverse and we raised some money, but you cannot put a price tag on awareness.”
“Enough is enough. Every week we are seeing three to four deaths and they’re all young people,” Jeff Marion, a city youth sports coach and planning committee member said. “If we keep playing around there will not be a middle generation.”
Jean, who has been in Pittsburgh for 12 years and considers it his second home, grew up in Harlem, N.Y., where he said with growing up in the inner city, violence became second nature to him. “You become numb to it and we cannot have that. In our society, it’s okay if people are shooting at pee wee league games, its’ okay to slap a girl around or shoot people for looking at you the wrong way. And that’s wrong,” Jean said.
Last year, Allegheny County lost 96 people to homicide, many of them young Black males under the age of 30, that was more than 2011’s total of 73 and less than 2010’s total of 100. Thus far in 2013, there have already been four murders, two of them Black males, the youngest 16.
Along with the deaths, there have been countless shootings, especially at youth football games. In August 2010, there was a shooting at a Homewood football field and in 2012, there were two shootings, one near Stargell Field in Homewood and the other at the Pittsburgh Obama School field, resulting in the death of Charlene Walters, a 64-year-old grandmother.
But Jean and Marion both agree that instilling the anti-violence message early and getting youth involved in activities are both solutions to keeping them off the streets and becoming part of the epidemic. “If a kid is involved in athletics, he or she does not have time to be involved in violence,” said Marion.
“I was one of those kids, I saw my life through people (a coach) like Jeff. I want those kids to succeed,” Jean said.
Although the concert was a success, Marion said he would have liked a larger turnout and more local support, but that he was happy with the individuals who did come out and support the effort.
“People complain all the time (about the violence), but never get involved. I think people are marched and meetinged out. They have their place, but it is like people have become numb to them.” He said they hoped that something fun, like this benefit concert, would be the answer to getting people out and involved.
Besides the sounds of Jean’s music, which he classifies as a worldly sound with a rock, jazz, soul, R&B, and reggae influence, he was presented with a proclamation by Councilman Bill Peduto from the Pittsburgh City Council, declaring Jan. 17, 2013, Yves Jean Day.
“It was a great feeling to have the city recognize my work. It makes me feel as if my efforts are not lost and are not in vain,” Jean said.
Proceeds from the event will go to the LHAS, which is an organization that meets the needs of the community through a teen dating violence awareness and prevention program, and youth sports leagues in the area.
Jean plans to use this concert as a stepping-stone to getting the message of stop the violence out. He plans to expand the concert, not only nationally, but also globally.
“It takes each on to teach one. I’m just a vehicle trying to get the message out and I do it through music.”
(For more information on Yves Jean, visit www.yvesjeanmusic.com.)
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